The reasons for the introduction of Prohibition

There was a wide range of economic, political and social reasons for Prohibition.

Pressure from temperance groups and religious groups

Organisations that promoted temperance such as the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) campaigned hard for Prohibition.

Some religious groups, such as the Methodists and Baptists, joined the crusade.

This was because:

  • liquor was seen as responsible for crime and violence;
  • it threatened the breakup of families because men wasted their wages on drink and then abused their wives and children;
  • it affected people’s health;
  • it was seen as against God’s will.

Fundamentalist preachers, such as Billy Sunday, persuaded many conservatives that alcohol was evil.

Attitude of industrialists

Businessmen, such as Henry Ford, supported Prohibition because they felt alcohol lessened the efficiency of their workers.

Divisions between brewers and distillers

Brewers argued beer was healthy and spirits were harmful in the hope of deflecting criticism from themselves. Thus, there was not a united front by the liquor industry against Prohibition.

Patriotism

Most big liquor manufacturers were German, for example Budweiser, and it was seen as unpatriotic (disloyal to the USA) to consume it.

Anti-immigrant feelings

Many Americans disapproved of immigrants because of the prevalence of drinking in their communities, such as the Irish, German and eastern European areas. Anti-immigrant feeling was therefore linked to support for Prohibition.

Political considerations

Politicians, who often drank in private, supported Prohibition in public because they did not want to lose votes in elections.

Financial considerations of the government

Revenue from the relatively new tax on people’s incomes would make up for the loss of money from taxes on alcohol.